Researchers describe new kangaroo fossil from Papua New Guinea


New kangaroo described - from PNG
Artist’s impression of Nombe Rockshelter megafauna, exhibiting the Nombe kangaroo on the proper. Credit score: Paintings by Peter Schouten

Australian paleontologists from Flinders College have described a brand new genus of big fossil kangaroo from the mountains of central Papua New Guinea.

The brand new description of the fossil kangaroo has discovered that slightly than being intently associated to Australian kangaroos, it almost certainly belongs to a novel genus of extra primitive kangaroo discovered solely in Papua New Guinea.

The kangaroo, first described in 1983 by Professor Tim Flannery, is understood from fossils round 20,000-50,000 years outdated. They arrive from the Nombe Rockshelter, an archaeological and paleontological web site in Chimbu Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Nombe is already identified for a number of extinct species of kangaroo and big four-legged marsupials referred to as diprotodontids.

Flinders College researchers have renamed the animal Nombe nombe, after the placement of its discovery—and plan to return to PNG for additional excavations and analysis subsequent yr.

The squat, muscular Nombe lived in a various montane rainforest with thick undergrowth and a closed cover. Right here, it developed to eat the robust leaves from timber and shrubs, with a thick jaw bone and powerful chewing muscular tissues.

A lot of the animal lifetime of New Guinea is little-known exterior the island, regardless of its colour and distinctiveness. This discovery breathes some new life into the exploration of New Guinea’s faunal historical past.

New kangaroo described - from PNG
Flinders College palaeontology researcher Isaac Kerr with an Australian kangaroo jaw bone, and an Australian megafauna fossil jaw used within the newest Royal Society examine. Credit score: Flinders College

“The New Guinean fauna is fascinating, however only a few Australians have a lot of an thought of what is truly there,” says Flinders paleontology Ph.D. candidate Isaac Kerr.

“There are a number of species of enormous, long-nosed, worm-eating echidna which are nonetheless round as we speak, many alternative wallaby and possum species that we do not get in Australia, and extra nonetheless within the fossil report.

“We consider these animals as being uniquely Australian, however they’ve this intriguing different life inside New Guinea.”

Utilizing 3D imagery and different expertise, the researchers have studied stays from the PNG Museum and Artwork gallery. They now consider that the species might have developed from an historical type of kangaroo that dispersed into New Guinea within the late Miocene epoch, round 5-8 million years in the past.

Throughout that point, the islands of New Guinea and mainland Australia had been related by a “land-bridge” attributable to decrease sea ranges, slightly than separated by the flooded Torres Strait as they’re as we speak. This “bridge” allowed early Australian mammals, together with numerous big extinct varieties, to maneuver into the rainforests of New Guinea.

When the Torres Strait flooded once more, nevertheless, these populations of animals turned disconnected from their Australian kinfolk, and so developed individually to go well with their tropical, mountainous PNG residence.

Nombe is now thought of the descendant of one in every of these historical lineages of kangaroos.

New kangaroo described - from PNG
3D render of the PNG kangaroo fossilized jaw bone used within the new Flinders College examine. Credit score: I Kerr, Flinders College

Sporadic paleontological work was undertaken there by American and Australian researchers within the Nineteen Sixties, ’70s and ’80s, a lot of which resulted in fascinating discoveries of extinct megafauna. Nevertheless, no paleontological digs have taken place there because the early ’90s, a state of affairs the Flinders College researchers search to treatment.

Co-author on the brand new Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia article, Flinders College Professor Gavin Prideaux, says the analysis will broaden due to a grant from the Australia Pacific Science Basis.

“We’re very excited to undertake three paleontological digs at two completely different websites in japanese and central PNG over the subsequent three years,” he says.

“We’ll be working with the curators of the Papua New Guinea Museum and Artwork Gallery and different contacts in PNG, with whom we hope to construct some native curiosity in New Guinean paleontology.”


Quokka-sized fossil species present kangaroos evolving to eat leaves, for the fourth time


Extra data:
A brand new genus of fossil kangaroo from late Pleistocene New Guinea, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia (2022). DOI: 10.1080/03721426.2022.2086518

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